A major flood in cannabis production and a corresponding drop in cannabis prices resulted in Santa Barbara County generating 43 percent less cannabis revenue in the fourth quarter of 2021 than in the same period last year. That’s a decrease from $ 5.5 million to $ 3.8 million.
Even so, the county’s cannabis revenues rose $ 3.5 million during the year, from $ 12.2 million last year to $ 15.7 million. Brittany Heaton, the county’s de facto cannabis tzarina, told overseers at Tuesday’s board meeting that overproduction may have driven the price per pound lower. Industry officials also suggested that 2020 cannabis gains were particularly spectacular because so many cannabis customers were under COVID lockdown.
At that meeting, it was clear that the county’s staff are still struggling to understand the explosive new industry. The permit applications far exceed the number of employees in the district who are required to process them. And the 1,575 acres inland that regulators have made available for cultivation don’t make things any easier.
Supervisor Steve Lavagnino wondered why 11 “operators” hadn’t even filed a tax return with the county and why 43 were not reporting taxable income. No wonder the county’s tax collector has just hired someone who specializes in auditing cannabis operators.
Although greenhouse cannabis, regulators have been told, is still fetching $ 1,200–1,500 in the open market instead of $ 40 a pound for outdoor cannabis, it brings its own headache. Last year the county received 495 complaints about odors emanating from Carpinteria greenhouses. At all cannabis operations, whether in the greenhouse or outdoors, the sheriff’s deputies made 10 illegal crops arrests, exterminated 6,975 plants and confiscated an estimated $ 6.1 million worth of products.
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